Search Results for: "theological anthropology"

Free Will and the Stages of Theological Anthropology

Learn more about this Routledge Research Companion to Theological Anthropology and this chapter contribution!

The principal object of this chapter is to explore the role of free will in the context of theological anthropology. Specifically, we address the relation of human freedom to the progression through the various stages of theological anthropology: status integritatis, status corruptionis, and status gloriae. We begin by contrasting compatibilism and incompatibilism and their respective abilities to account from human freedom. In the theological realm, compatibilism states that human’s action may be freely chosen even if God also determines that same act. In contrast, incompatibilism claims that the existence of free will is incompatible with determinism.

The first stage of theological anthropology that we address is status integritatis. This is the state of humans before sin. Because they are created in the image of God, they are moral agents and, as such, have free will. Traditional Christian thought has held that freedom in this stage is a two-way power; it can be used either in alignment with God’s will, or against it. One approach to an incompatibilist account of human freedom is as follows. For God to create a universe that contained moral good, he would have to create that universe with the possibility for moral evil as well. Because God does not, according to the incompatibilist’s view, determine how agents use their free will, sin becomes a possibility if he gives creation free will. However, because those agents have not lost original righteousness (because they have not yet sinned), it is also possible for them to not sin. Compatibilists often explain human sin, given that God could have determined that humans never freely sin, by using a version of the greater good defense. Here, sin is necessary for some greater good (e.g., incarnation, atonement). On this view, God determines agents to sin in order to bring about that greater good.

Like the status integritatis, in the status corruptionis, humans have the ability to sin. This state comes, however, after the loss of original righteousness. As such, human agents in this stage are no longer oriented toward the good of alignment with God and are in bondage to sin and death. As such, without some grace beyond the grace of nature, humans in the status corruptionis are unable to freely choose the good. Christian tradition supports the claim that free agents in this stage cannot initiate movement toward the good of alignment with God. Instead, God must bestow a unique grace upon the agent in order for that agent to choose a good. In both compatibilist and incompatibilist views, the ability to sin in the status corruptionis has the same provenance as it does in the status integritatis. Compatibilism has an easier time explaining how humans can freely make or fail to make a choice, since it allows God to determine them without undermining their freedom. But, we argue, even on a libertarian account of free will, there is nothing that prevents agents from being both freely able to sin and not freely able to choose the good. Because of the impact of sin upon the individual, a unique grace will be needed for the agent to will the good.

The final stage of theological anthropology is the status gloriae, the stage in which the redeemed are unable to sin. The truth of compatibilism would again allow for an easy defense of this stage: if God can determine how agents use their free will, then God can determine that the redeemed in heaven only direct their free will toward the good and never sin. Incompatibilism seems to have a harder time accounting for the status gloriae: if the redeemed are unable to sin, it would seem that their free will is constrained in some important way. We suggest that one possible libertarian approach is to argue for the agent’s own moral character being the constraining factor. As long as that agent’s moral character is freely formed, and thus an internal rather than external constraint, it need not count against her being free. The libertarian can also argue that a person is only free to choose some option if she sees a reason to choose that option. On this view, the redeemed would have perfected their character so that they perfectly understand their reasons for acting (and not acting), can weigh those reasons perfectly, and would never act contrary to those reasons. It would be possible, then, that the redeemed see no reason to sin, and thus cannot freely choose to sin.

Many of these issues are treated at greater length in Timpe’s Free Will in Philosophical Theology (Bloomsbury 2013). Those interested in these issues should also look at Stewart Goetz’s Freedom, Teleology, and Evil (Continuum 2011). There are considerable literatures relating human freedom to heaven and hell; perhaps the best place to start is Jerry Walls’ Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things that Matter Most (Brazos 2015). We hope that further work will explore philosophical issues of the Incarnation for how it relates to human freedom, as well as the related issue of deification that one finds in various Christian traditions.

Cyborg Selves: A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman

In 2012, Routledge published  Cyborg Selves: A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman in the Routledge Science and Religion Series by Jeanine Thweatt-Bates. Thweatt-Bates holds a Ph.D. in Theology and Science from Princeton Theological Seminary, and is currently Assistant Professor of Theology at New Brunswick Theological Seminary and an instructor with the Science for Ministry Institute at Princeton Theological Seminary.

 From the publisher’s description of Cyborg Selves: 

What is the ‘posthuman’? Is becoming posthuman inevitable-something which will happen to us, or something we will do to ourselves? Why do some long for it, while others fearfully reject it? These questions underscore the fact that the posthuman is a name for the unknown future, and therefore, not a single idea but a jumble of competing visions – some of which may be exciting, some of which may be frightening, and which is which depends on who you are, and what you desire to be. This book aims to clarify current theological and philosophical dialogue on the posthuman by arguing that theologians must pay attention to which form of the posthuman they are engaging, and to demonstrate that a ‘posthuman theology’ is not only possible, but desirable, when the vision of the posthuman is one which coincides with a theological vision of the human.

The Creation of Self

In 2023, John Hunt Publishing will release The Creation of Self by Joshua R. Farris. Farris is currently the Humboldt Experienced Researcher Fellow at the University of Bochum in Bochum, Germany, focusing on biologically-engaged religious anthropology. Farris is also a co-project editor and coordinator of the EPS web project on the Philosophy of Theological Anthropology.

From the publisher’s description: 

Situated in broader science-and-religion discussions, The Creation of Self is the first book-length defense of a creationist view of persons as souls. This book therefore serves as both a novel argument for God’s creation of selves and as a critique of contemporary materialist and emergent-self alternatives, critically examining naturalistic views that argue for a regular, law-like process behind the emergence of personhood. Author Joshua Farris argues on the assumption that persons are fundamentally unique individuals that look more like singularities of nature, rather than material products grounded in regularity or predictability from past events. By extending the basic intuition that we are unique and mysterious individuals, Farris develops a sophisticated analytic defense of the soul that requires a sufficient explanation not found in nature but made by a Creator who has intentions and the power to bring about novel entities in the world. The Creation of Self gives philosophers, theologians, and the lay intellectual grounding for thinking about persons as religious beings. It aims to help readers understand why recent scientifically motivated objections to the soul are unsuccessful, and why we must consider a religious conception of persons as souls as a common starting point.

Bruce Gordon, Associate Professor of History and Philosophy of Science (Houston Baptist University), says that

Many old-school neuroscientists and philosophers of mind, having retreated to the keep of non-reductive physicalism, seem oblivious to the fact that their materialist position has been overrun both by the evidence, and by panpsychist, dualist, and idealist armies. In this regard, apart from Richard Swinburne, none has been more vigorous in defending the consistency of emergent-creationist dualism with neuroscience, and the necessity of an immaterial mind to a proper understanding of human personhood, than Joshua Farris. With respect to religious issues, Farris is the leader. Those who think that substance dualism is untenable display their doxastic inertia and ignore Farris’ work at their peril.

On the Nature and Origins of Persons

In 2023, IVP Academic is set to publish Who Are You, Really? A Philosopher’s Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Persons by Joshua Rasmussen. Rasmussen (PhD, Notre Dame) is associate professor of philosophy at Azusa Pacific University. 

From the publisher’s description:

What does it mean to be human? What is a person? Where did we come from?

Philosopher Joshua Rasmussen offers his own step-by-step examination into the fundamental nature and ultimate origin of persons. Using accessible language and clear logic, he argues that the answer to the question of what it means to be a person sheds light not only on our own nature but also on the existence of the one who gave us life.

J. P. Moreland writes about the book:

Joshua Rasmussen is a treasured friend and esteemed colleague. Based on the quality of his work, he is regarded as an elite philosopher among secular and Christian scholars alike. But he is much more than that. Joshua is a warm-hearted Jesus follower with a passion to help thoughtful believers and with the skills to take difficult topics and make them accessible. Who Are You, Really? is the fruit of these abilities. With fresh, original, perceptive insight, this book addresses the central question that underlies most of the issues debated in contemporary culture and the academy. Having specialized in philosophy of mind and theological anthropology for decades, I can confidently say that there is nothing like this book. With fairness and rigor, Rasmussen carefully works through all the issues and arguments fundamental to his topic. Happily, he does all of this while making the book marvelously accessible. This should be a required text in all Christian colleges and seminaries, and it is must-read for all who care about this crucial subject.

On the Metaphysics and Coherence of Evolution

The theory of evolution is the most popular scientific explanation for the origin of the species and humanity. It is also consistently presented as a refutation of religious claims about the origin of the species and humanity.

In this paper, I wish to briefly inspect the metaphysical claims implied behind the theory of evolution: namely the sharing of traits and properties amongst organisms. This metaphysical claim implies that the theory of evolution must rely on a metaphysical theory of universals, which has implications that undermine the theory of evolution as the origin of the species and humanity. As a result, the coherence of the theory of evolution becomes questionable, paving the way for religious claims on the origins of the species and humanity to be reconsidered.

The full text of this paper is available for FREE by clicking here. The paper is part of an ongoing EPS web project focused on a Philosophy of Theological Anthropology.

Conscience and Its Verdicts

This paper overviews an historical account (Richard Sorabji) and biblical accounts (Andrew Naselli and J. D. Crowley) of the concept of conscience to demonstrate a broad, conceptual compatibility between the two accounts, which can be supported by mature Christian anthropologies but that should not be understood as an account of the necessary and jointly sufficient features for conscience.

The paper concludes by working through a handful of anthropological points, which highlights that conscience and its verdicts possess a sort of dual cognitive-affective nature.

The full-text of the paper is available for FREE by clicking here. The paper is part of an ongoing EPS web project focused on a Philosophy of Theological Anthropology.


An Unwelcome Guest: A Response to My Critics

The present article is a response to my critics of The Soul of Theological Anthropology from the 2018 EPS at AAR annual conference. The panel was comprised of one science-engaged theological materialist (Sarah Lane Ritchie), one historical philosopher (Jesse Couenhoven), one systematic theologian (Paul Allen), and one analytic theologian (J.T. Turner). Two of the four critics responded from the perspective of some version of Thomist hylomorphism (i.e., Turner and Allen). Another responded from a sympathetic position toward either constitutional materialism or some version of hylomorphism, (i.e., Couenhoven) and the final one responded from a broadly materialist standpoint (i.e., Ritchie).The concerns raised vary from dogmatic objections to Cartesianism, methodological, philosophical, and theological.

My intent has been to address all of the concerns raised by my critics and give reasons why Cartesianism fares better than alternative anthropologies in a cost-benefit analysis. I begin by prefacing general methodological and dogmatic considerations. Finally, I spend a considerable amount of time on objections from the nature of the body’s relation to the soul and eschatological considerations of the resurrection body.

If there was one central concern, then it would be a concern of the role of the body to the soul both protologically and eschatologically. I conclude that when we weigh all the issues Cartesianism has several benefits over the competitors, and bodily concerns can be alleviated.

The full-text of the paper is available for FREE by clicking hereThe paper is part of an ongoing EPS web project focused on a Philosophy of Theological Anthropology.

Kant’s Existential Dualism

Various scholars in Kant studies (e.g., Watkins, Chignell, Ameriks) seem to agree that Kant is a dualist of one sort or another. For example, his commitment to transcendental rationalism, to the phenomenal/noumenal distinction of the theoretical philosophy, and to the human disposition of his moral and religious philosophy makes materialism of any kind a hard sell in Kant interpretation.What kind of dualist Kant must be is more difficult to determine and garners much less agreement.

In three stages, this paper seeks to argue for a particular body-soul dualism that is entailed by Kant’s philosophy. First, by addressing how Kant is not a materialist. Second, the establishment of Kant’s epistemic grounds for dualism. Third, the rational dimension and existential significance of faith that will account for the specific way Kant’s dualism unfolds in the critical philosophy.

The full-text of this paper is available for FREE by clicking here. The paper is part of an ongoing EPS web project focused on a Philosophy of Theological Anthropology.

The Semiotic Animal and the Image of God

Semiotician and philosopher John Deely made the observation that human beings are the semiotic animal, the only species with the capacity to become aware of signs and semiosis, i.e. semiotic consciousness. He discusses in multiple places that this is the defining characteristic of human beings from all of the other animals.

Since human beings ascend to semiotic consciousness, they thus are able to engage in the social construction of reality, and they are the only animals that do this.

Deely’s concept of the semiotic animal is ripe for dialogue with theological anthropology.

In this article, I explore how humanity’s being the semiotic animal is part and parcel of its being made in the Image of God. By being the semiotic animal, humans are able to exercise dominion over the rest of creation and participate in the continuing creation of God.

The full-text of this article is available for FREE by clicking here. The paper is part of an ongoing EPS web project focused on a Philosophy of Theological Anthropology.